Our Solemn Responsibility

Posted on by Thomas Mohn, DVM, MS, DABVP

I began in veterinary medicine as an ER doctor and saved a lot of patient’s lives and learned some excellent medicine. But for me, something vital was missing. I struggled to grasp what exactly was wrong until one night it hit me. “Its” name was “Midnight.”

Midnight, of course, was a pitch-black, male cat with piercing yellow eyes. According to the client, he had been vomiting nonstop all day. Now, at 10 p.m., with Midnight progressively getting worse, the client brought him to me. A physical exam revealed multiple enlarged lymph nodes, difficulty breathing and a thickened portion of small intestine in the upper area of the abdomen. “Cancer,” I thought, with a sinking feeling in my stomach for the conversation I feared I was getting ready to have with this client.

“Can you tell me about the vomiting?” I asked.

The answer shocked me.

“He’s been throwing up on and off for about 2 years! And the last few months, he’s lost a lot of weight,” the client had said, obviously frustrated. “I have taken him into my vet four times for the vomiting and weight loss over the last month. I saw three different vets and they all told me occasional vomiting in a cat is normal. They are really nice, but I never know which doctor I’m going to have.  

She started to cry. “They never suggested any tests or X-rays. I should have taken him somewhere where they would listen to me!”

Well, the story doesn’t get any better. Midnight had multicentric lymphosarcoma. Although this client was willing and able to pursue treatment, after a thorough evaluation and upon the advice of a local oncologist, she elected to end Midnight’s suffering. Midnight was caringly euthanized the next day.

Now, back to the point.

I’m not trying to criticize these three different doctors or suggest that they somehow “missed it.” I’ve been there! People make mistakes. I know how busy and stressful a day in the hospital can be. However, the lesson Midnight taught me is that our pets deserve more from us than just being a “regular” vet. They need someone who will take complete responsibility for their care from kitten/puppy-hood to “senior-hood.” This lesson rings in my head every time I see a patient. What might have happened if one of these doctors had taken the responsibility to call Midnight “my patient” and had owned his health from start to finish? I suspect that any of them would have put the pieces together. Maybe Midnight would never have ended up at the ER that night. Midnight didn’t need a “regular” veterinarian; he needed a primary provider. This is a solemn responsibility.

About Thomas Mohn, DVM, MS, DABVP

Thomas Mohn, DVM, MS, DABVP (Canine/Feline), obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Biology from Southwest Baptist University in 1991, and a DVM and Master of Science degree in Anatomy and Physiology from Oklahoma State University in 1996. He practiced as a veterinarian in multiple practice situations before joining Banfield in 2006 as a chief of staff and Partner doctor in Oklahoma. He and his family relocated to Vancouver, Wash., and in 2009, he joined Banfield’s Central Team Support in Portland, Ore., as a medical advisor. He obtained his ABVP diplomat status in 2011. Dr. Mohn lives with his wife, Beth, an educator, daughters Abby, 7, and Journey, 5, and three pets: Maizy the cat, a guinea pig named Dora and a goldfish named Izzy. View all posts by Thomas Mohn, DVM, MS, DABVP →

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